As a filmmaker, it is no longer enough to simply make a great movie and sell it off to the highest bidder. Lower production costs coupled with the rapid surge of distribution opportunities means that in order to succeed, you need to start viewing yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker.
This is the new model of filmmaking. Serious filmmakers must now take a comprehensive approach to the business side of independent film. What I am about to propose is a bit radical. So if you would like to bury your head in the sand, that’s understandable. You can stop reading now.
The New Model of Filmmaking
Traditionally, when making a movie, filmmakers break down a script, create a schedule, figure out who they need to hire, create a budget, raise the money, hire freelances, pay the freelances, make the movie and then sell the movie – In this old model, before non-discriminatory VOD distribution, the idea of making a movie was like the lottery.
Very few filmmakers ever gave thought to the marketing and eventual sales of the movie. They just made the movie, traveled the festivals and film markets and hoped for the best.
In the event a good distribution deal transpired, investors got lucky. If it didn’t happen, investors would once again learn the age-old lesson that filmaking is risky. In the meantime, after WRAPPING, freelancers collect their final checks and move onto their next projects. Most could really care less about distribution.
There was a time when making a feature was more expensive. The market had less competition. Physical video outlets were more abundant. Festivals were emerging in mass. And distributors were less picky.
But now, anybody with a camera can make a good looking movie. That doesn’t mean everybody can make a good movie – but it does mean that more product in the marketplace, combined with decreased distribution outlets creates excessive supply.
Added competition floods the marketplace and subsequently decreases the potential for return – which makes it really tough to get your independent movie seen and sold!
What we are experiencing is the film industry equivalent of sweat shop labor flooding the market with cheaply produced product. And as a result of these diminished margins, filmmakers must now think in terms of volume. Here’s the plan:
- Instead of putting 100% focus on simply making one movie, plan a slate of at least 3 features, geared towards the same genre and audience. This will allow you to build a brand and momentum.
- Casting is promotion paid upfront. So cast people who have a following. If you can’t afford an A-list actor, then cast a social media star. If you can’t cast a social media star, then cast the local newscaster who always wanted to be an actor.
- Assume that you will only net $5 dollars per sale of your film. How many units do you need to sell to cover your budget?
- Work backwards into your budget. What publications already appeal to your audience?
- What will it take to for these publications to send out dedicated email blasts promoting your film? And if you assume only a small percentage of these readers will buy your film, how many people do you need to get in front of? Budget for this.
In order to succeed in this changing world, we need to change. We need to think about our movie business like a mini-studio, or a small factory. And instead of hiring freelancers, I suggest creating salaried positions whereby everybody on the production team shares a percentage of ownership and profits.
While this may at first seem outlandish, there is nothing new about the new model of filmmaking. We are simply talking about shoving filmmaking into a traditional upstart model, complete with stock options. And like most upstarts, each employee will share a vested interest in making the company profitable.
If the philosophy resonates with you, make sure to grab The Filmmaker Action Pack.